‘Bato’ on deploying cops, soldiers for anti-Red operations on campuses: ‘What’s so special with UP?’
MANILA, Philippines—“What is so special with UP?”
Sen. Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa made this remark as he questioned the agreement between the Department of National Defense (DND) and University of the Philippines (UP) that required prior notice to university officials for police and military to conduct counterinsurgency operations on UP campuses.
“For me, what I think of the agreement is what is so special with UP?” said Dela Rosa, President Rodrigo Duterte’s first Philippine National Police chief. “Why don’t other academic campuses, like MSU Marawi, have the same agreement,” he said in a statement in Filipino on Wednesday (Jan. 20).
“What is so special with UP? Why is it only in UP that soldiers and policemen are barred from entering? What does it mean?” said Dela Rosa, architect of the now controversial anti-drug campaign Oplan Tokhang.
Dela Rosa issued the statement after the DND unilaterally terminated the 1989 agreement with UP to notify school officials ahead of any police or military operation on UP campuses. The move drew sharp criticisms from the UP community and some lawmakers.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, defending his decision to terminate the agreement, said it had been a hindrance to operations against communist rebels, especially recruitment of cadres in UP.
The agreement between UP and the DND was inked on June 30, 1989 between constitutionalist and UP President Jose Abueva and then defense chief Fidel Ramos.
An earlier agreement in 1982, known as the Soto-Enrile Accord, was signed between student leader Sonia Soto and then Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile. The agreement prohibits members of the police or military from entering UP campuses “except in cases of hot pursuit and similar occasions of emergency.”
UP professor and journalist Danilo Arao said the 1989 UP-DND accord was preceded by the abduction of Donato Continente, then staffer of the UP campus paper Philippine Collegian, who was “tortured and forced to confess” to the murder of an American soldier.
Arao said the 1989 UP-DND Accord was signed 14 days following Continente’s abduction.
For Dela Rosa, the termination of the agreement was “long overdue.”
He said he believed the government is being “fooled” by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), New Peoples Army (NPA) and National Democratic Front of the Philippines with the help of the agreement.
The senator said the termination of the agreement does not automatically mean police and military outposts would rise on UP campuses.
“I am not pushing for that,” said Dela Rosa. “They might say that the mere sight of a police or soldier inside the campus is a curtailment of their academic freedom,” he said partly in Filipino.
He said there should be “equal” opportunity for rebels and the government to recruit students.
“What I mean is that if CPP-NPA are free to recruit students in UP to join NPA in the mountains, the armed forces or police should also be able to recruit those from UP to join the Army or police,” Dela Rosa said.
But while Dela Rosa said he believed terminating the agreement was long overdue, some of his Senate colleagues had filed a bill seeking to make such agreements part of the law of the land.
Sen. Pia Cayetano, a UP graduate, urged the DND and UP officials to “sit down and discuss” the issue.
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